Boys Basketball Roundup...News about Cloquet and other area teamsCloquet Coach Steve Battaglia had the flu so bad that he nearly left the gym in last Thursday’s 67-35 defeat at Superior, then he missed the team’s Saturday 54-47 loss at Chisago Lakes Area. But the boys kept their spirits up, even though their "rock" was MIA.
By: Tyler Korby, Pine Journal
As tough as his boys basketball team’s last two losses were to swallow, Cloquet Coach Steve Battaglia barely could swallow anything last weekend, weathering a vile case of influenza.
So bad that Battaglia – in his eighth year with the Lumberjacks – nearly left the gym in last Thursday’s 67-35 defeat at Superior, then he missed the team’s Saturday 54-47 loss at Chisago Lakes Area – battling sickness in bed instead.
“I’ve been sick before, but never in bed for four days straight,” said Battaglia after returning Tuesday to teach and coach. “At Superior I made sure I knew where the closest garbage can was in case I had to make a run for it. And Saturday was the first game I’ve ever missed.”
Battaglia said he was around 70 percent recovered Tuesday afternoon from his case of influenza, a flu sickness tearing through the country and in some cases, even resulting in death.
“When school was canceled last Friday, I brought my kids out for breakfast, took two bites, and that was it,” Battaglia continued. “Then I was freezing, sweaty, chilly – I felt crappy.”
Admitting it was weird listening to his own team play over the radio Saturday afternoon, Battaglia directed practice Tuesday evening and said he was feeling better yet Wednesday at school.
“He’s our rock,” said veteran junior guard Maxx Brenner. “He gets us set, puts us where we need to be and motivates us. It was different without our leader [Saturday], but we all adapted well and it’s definitely nice to have him back.”
Assistant coaches Jack Hagen, Paul Riess, Ryan Lindstrom and Steve’s father, Dave Battaglia, all helped coach Saturday at Lindstrom, Minn., in a game where junior forward Dillon Johnson and sophomore guard Nate Weets were also sick.
“We’re a hurting unit,” Battaglia said of the team’s health.
Junior guard Jake Bushey, who scored 13 points and nailed a game-leading four 3-pointers in Saturday’s narrow defeat, said he hasn’t been ill lately. Rather, he said, although Cloquet (5-6) is struggling with sickness and wins, they remain confident.
“We’ve been right in it,” Bushey said. “We’ve had some tough losses, but we’re as good as anyone. If we limit our turnovers, take care of the ball, make our free throws and get the ball inside to our big guys, we know we can beat anyone.”
Their recent back-to-back losses don’t concern their coach in mid-January, rather than tournament time in March. Especially when seeking their first state appearance since 2000.
“We’re just going to have to grind it out,” Battaglia said. “We’re not going to go 20-5. But we don’t care about our record. We want to go to the Cities. These guys know they can do it.”
Especially if healthy, like a fortunate Brenner has been.
“I’ve been lucky,” he said. “Just wash your hands, I guess.”
Carlton (4-8) cracked its four-game losing stretch when the Bulldogs bested host East Central 54-35 Monday night.
Cromwell-Wright (4-5) chalked up a loss against Polar League nemesis Cook County 62-43 Tuesday night in Cromwell.
Esko (11-3) edged host Crosby-Ironton 60-53 Tuesday evening in Crosby, as the Eskomos got back to their winning ways after narrow defeats to Mora and Duluth East.
Fond du Lac Ojibwe (6-5) opened Tuesday’s game with fast-paced play, yet the Ogichidaa fell on the short end of an 82-76 loss to Mesabi Academy in Buhl, Minn.
South Ridge (6-4) has rattled off back-to-back wins lately, getting past North Woods last week, while the Panthers also pounded Eveleth-Gilbert 91-57 Tuesday evening in Eveleth.
Wrenshall (4-5) wrangled up its fourth win of the winter when the team topped visiting Northeast Range 62-57 on Tuesday. The Wrens have doubled their wins in the last two seasons combined.
FDLTCC (3-12) found another loss – their 11th straight – Saturday afternoon in a 104-42 defeat to rival Vermilion in Ely.